How to start running

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A guide to help you (and your friends) not get wrecked

We’ve all got these people in our lives - they’re our mates, our partners, or our colleagues (even at TEMPO HQ I have these colleagues). The people who ask about your running, and often follow it up with ‘that’s so good, I wish I could run’. Or maybe they frame it the opposite way, but you can tell they still want to run - ‘I don’t know how you do it, I hate running’.

Or maybe you are that person? As a kid you only ever ran when you had to, or you've got some old football injury that you're worried about.

For the frequent runners, we know how much it enriches our lives, how much value it brings us on the daily.

Aside from the fitness, the social benefits can be huge - many of the most meaningful relationships I’ll ever have, have come through running. I’ve been fortunate to meet some incredible people through this sport.

So, if you’ve got people in your life who want to get into running, or you are that person who wants to make a start but doesn't know how - this article is for you.

I spoke to Sydney running coach Tim Locke and got his top tips for getting started.

Tim crop

Running rewards patience - take a long term view

We all know the feeling of discovering something new and going way too hard on it. There’s a saying, ‘find what you love and let it kill you’, which is cool and all, but it’s not ‘find what you love and develop a stress fracture’. The point is, don’t rush in. So if you have a beginner runner telling you they’ve just started running every day - Tim reckons now might be a good time to tell them to ease up before they break something.

“It’s easy to become infatuated with a new hobby and want to do it more and more. With running we have to account for the physical stress on the body and unfortunately newer runners won’t always pick up the warning signs of injury and overuse until it’s too late.”

Understanding early on that doing a little bit less is better than doing a little bit too much can go a long way in avoiding some of those ‘beginner’ injuries.

This is also where the run/walk program can help. We see it all the time, even in elite athletes who are coming back from injuries; they’ll often spend a couple of weeks building up by including run/walk intervals in their training, gradually loading their bodies rather than going from 0 to 100.

“Run/walk is good for new runners because it manages the balance of structural load (muscles/bones/tendons etc) with cardiovascular load (heart and lungs). So, breaking up a run with some walk breaks is a good way to get into running and an easy way to track progression without thinking ‘oh this is impossible, everything burns!’."

So, how do you help a buddy get started slowly? Educate them - explain to them that they don’t want to get injured, because being injured sucks. And starting slow, and doing things like run/walk (just like the pros do occasionally) is a great way to minimise the risk of injury.

I’ve also had friends who don’t want to do run/walk because they think they’ll look silly - like everyone at the park is watching them run for a minute then walk for a minute. So if you can - go join them. Show them that as a runner, it’s a totally normal thing to do.


Don’t make it all about running

It sounds obvious, but keep it fun and social. I’ve had friends who are daunted by the idea of meeting for a run, but if I pitch it as a ‘run and then we’ll grab some dinner or a beer’, all of a sudden it’s more attractive (not sure what that says about my running chat). It will help people lower their guard - they’re all of a sudden not worried that you’re putting them through a fitness test, and they understand that it’s a relaxed jog and that the beer afterwards is the main event anyway.

You’ve heard it before, but we’re taught from a young age that running is punishment in other sports - mess up a drill at basketball or football training as a kid and the penalty for the team was often running. As adults we have the opportunity to change that perception that running isn’t fun.

Tim sums it up pretty well, “a really helpful thing to do is change the mindset that a 30 minute run is just 30 minutes of exercise. If you’re running with a mate or getting a drink after, it’s also a social catch up. We know it can also help clear your mind or improve your mood as well, so look at it in terms of all the things it can do for you, rather than just as a block of exercise.”

Now, there might be some of you saying, ‘doesn’t the beer cancel out the run?!’ Maybe, but who cares? Another good thing to pass on to new runners is that we run for the act of running. We run because we like it. Not to earn a particular meal or to lose weight or whatever. If you want to run and then have a beer - go for it. Have two.


Set small goals

As a lot of people probably found out during 2020, not having a goal can make the motivation for running a little bit harder to find. And while every year there are people who take up running solely because they got dared to run a marathon (seriously, don’t be that person), your goals don’t have to be so lofty. According to Tim, goals can help keep you motivated even if they’re not related to racing.

“It could be anything, it could be about completing a lap of your block or the local park, but having tangible goals you can tick off can make the entry into running so much more enjoyable. Your goal doesn’t have to involve a race or have anything to do with speed, and progression can be just as much about ‘feel’ as it is about performance.”

So please, before you start throwing out wild challenges to your mates about marathons or races, set smaller, more achievable goals. Whether it’s a lap of the block or committing to run a certain number of days each week, make it something fun.

Surround yourself with people you trust

When we’re new to something, we seek out people who we think are experts and we try to soak up as much knowledge as we can. But you also have to know who’s going to look out for you, versus who just wants someone new to run with.

Being part of a run crew or club is great, but you should still have someone you go to regularly to bounce off - because people in the crew aren’t responsible for managing your load. They’re likely to be encouraging of your new habit, but you need to have people who keep you on track.

“It doesn’t have to be anything formal, but just being able to say to someone ‘hey do you think doing this run would be too much for me?’ and bouncing those ideas off can potentially help prevent you from making the wrong decision.”

So whichever side of that relationship you’re on - whether you’re new to the game or the person being asked a heap of questions, it’s important to keep in mind the first tip we spoke about in this article - running rewards patience, and doing a little less is always better than doing a bit much.

Look after your feet

No, you don’t need carbon racing shoes. But yes, you probably need to level up what’s on your feet. Running is generally one of the more affordable sports, historically speaking. The specific equipment or space you need is a lot less than many other pursuits, but - your feet are incredibly important, and wearing the wrong shoes could be a fast track to the injured list.

Tim recommends hitting up a specialty running store and speaking to a staff member about what’s right for you.

“It’s important, especially when you’re just starting out, that you go and speak to someone and get the shoe that’s right for you. Over time you’ll get to know what works for you but initially having someone lead you down the right path is well worth it - as tempting as it can be to buy something that looks cool online.”

As runners, we know shoe choice is a very personal thing as well - I rarely trust my mates to order a beer for me, so I wouldn't buy the same shoes as them just because they like them!

So there you have it - 5 great tips whether you're just starting out, or whether you're the person being asked to guide a new runner. Getting into something new is always easier if you have someone to share the experience with; so try and link up with a buddy as you get more into running (but that doesn't mean you can't do it solo!).

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